People who have end stage Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize thirst or hunger. Some people are unable to recognize when they are full, or may not remember how to swallow.
Food and liquids may not always go down to the stomach – small amounts may end up in the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia. While at earlier stages of dementia, your loved one may have been able to feed him or herself finger foods; now it is likely that you need to feed him or her. Pureed foods are generally needed. Liquids may need to be thickened.
Ask your health care provider to order a swallow evaluation with a speech therapist to learn the best techniques to use for your loved one.
Take Advantage of Community Supports
National and local organizations offer support and educational resources for people who provide care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Find out what your loved one’s insurance coverage will pay for.
Some jurisdictions pay for home health services as a means to keep people out of nursing homes and in their own homes. These are known as diversion programs. In the USA, if a person has Medicaid, they may be eligible for nursing home diversion programs.
Local associations may provide respite care. Qualified sitters come to the home and sit with the afflicted individual so that family members can get a break. Churches and religious organizations sometimes offer similar services to members of the spiritual community.
Find Out About Hospice Services
While Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top killers, people do not usually think of it as a fatal illness. When most people think of the word “hospice”, they think of cancer. In the US, hospice services are available for any person who has a life expectancy of six months or less, not just people who are diagnosed with cancer. Other countries have similar rules. Ask your health care provider for a hospice referral. Hospice services are provided free of charge.
If your loved one qualifies for hospice services, you will receive support from a nurse and a social worker. Hospice aides generally provide direct care services for a few hours each week. Hospice volunteers may be available to sit with your loved one.
If you live in the USA, and your loved one receives hospice services, you are eligible to receive extended respite services for five days each quarter of the year. Where the service is provided depends upon your locale.
Next page: challenges people with advanced dementia face, and the importance of looking after yourself.